HP's POD Play

HP follows Rackable, Sun, and IBM into container-based computing

July 23, 2008

3 Min Read
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Aside from Invasion of the Body Snatchers references and HP in a Pod doggerel, is the new container-based HP Performance Optimized Data Center (POD) offering worth considering? We believe so. For one thing, it marks the inclusion of HP, one of the three musketeers of U.S. IT, in a still-emerging market with intriguing prospects.

Container-based computing is one of those computing solutions whose benefits are almost entirely technological. It offers a great way to squeeze a great deal of processing power into a greatly reduced footprint. Radically controlling the space requires vendors and customers to embrace sometimes radical (if you consider water to be radical) cooling technologies with significant short- and long-term benefits.

In addition, at a time when data center owners are under pressure from facilities construction and maintenance expenses, rising power costs, and the desire (among some, if not all) to embrace more ecologically sustainable IT, containerized computing is green” in just about every sense of the word. Since expanding such a facility requires little more than an empty space and appropriate utilities connections, once a company embraces these solutions, it is easy to expand them to suit evolving business requirements.

If containerized data centers are so great, why aren’t more companies adopting them? As with most things related to business, habits are hard to break. Organizations used to building, managing, and maintaining monolithic data center facilities tend to stick with what they know, and stubborn executives tend to like best what confuses them least. That said, container-based IT solutions have been finding their way into corners of the market where the combination of quick deployment, easy installation, and robust performance trumps conventional thinking.

So how does HP’s POD stack up against the competition? Pretty well, though details are thin on the ground. The POD’s density looks pretty impressive at first glance, but one should note that the HP container is also twice the length (40 feet versus 20 feet) of Sun’s Project Blackbox. We are also somewhat puzzled by HP’s claim that the POD is the “first offering of its kind designed to support a wide range of industry-standard technologies.” The last time we looked, IBM and Rackable qualified as well regarded, industry-standard vendors, and Sun’s solution is available with x86-based servers.Marketing hyperbole aside, HP appears to have the products, partners, manufacturing infrastructure, and data center experience to make containerized computing a reality. In addition, the POD highlights the value of HP’s February purchase of EYP Mission Critical Facilities, and we also believe the acquisition of EDS could complement HP’s effort. From the looks of things, EDS’s Data Center Modernization Service should fit right into the POD.

The question, then, becomes whether HP customers will want to make a place for the POD in their operations. For now, a definitive answer is impossible to ascertain. To our way of thinking, there are products vendors develop for customers’ current needs and those they create for future requirements. For the majority of organizations, containerized computing, whether provided by HP, IBM, Rackable, Sun, or others, fits firmly into the latter category, at least for now. But with four notable vendors addressing this market, we would not be surprised if enterprise customers increasingly look to containerized solutions for addressing significant data center and business problems.

— Charles King, Pund-IT president and principal analyst, focuses on business technology evolution and interpreting the effects these changes will have on vendors, their customers, and the greater IT marketplace. Charles began working in Silicon Valley in the early 1990s writing on technical, business, and strategy issues, then became an IT industry analyst in 1998. Since founding Pund-IT in December 2004, Charles has published the Pund-IT Weekly Review, which contains this blog and additional industry analysis. King has also produced numerous client projects, and has been quoted in a wide variety of IT industry and media outlets.

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  • Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS) (NYSE: EDS)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Rackable Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: RACK)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.0

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